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Huntington High School

Huntington High School students have given a presidential gift to the Town of Huntington that is already being called “timeless.”

Huntington town officials unveiled a new historic marker Sept. 21 in Municipal Lot 49 on New York Avenue commemorating a speech given during the town’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1903 by former President Theodore Roosevelt’s (R).

“In doing so today, we are not only honoring the president who came to address the residents of our town, but the importance of the legacy he left behind,” said Katelyn Sage, a senior at Huntington High School.

Roosevelt’s visit wasn’t only very powerful because he was a sitting president coming here for the anniversary of a great town, but he also started the study of historical remembrance here in Huntington.” 

— Chad Lupinacci

Sage and Huntington senior Luke Farrell have worked together during the past year to research Roosevelt’s 1903 visit to Huntington with Joseph Levy, Huntington school district’s chairman of humanities. After hours of research, the students learned a committee of local women searched through attics, basements and barns to pull together a collection of artifacts from the town’s Colonial era ahead of the presidential visit, according to Sage. The committee and collection served as the foundation of the current Huntington Historical Society.

“Roosevelt’s visit wasn’t only very powerful because he was a sitting president coming here for the anniversary of a great town, but he also started the study of historical remembrance here in Huntington,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

On the Fourth of July in 1903, Roosevelt gave a speech praising civic-minded virtues to a large crowd gathered in an empty field now near the intersection of New York Avenue and Gerard Street in Huntington. It was reenacted by Theodore Roosevelt impersonator Leer Leary at the unveiling ceremony Sept. 21. A short excerpt is also written on the historic marker.

“In civil life, we need decency, honesty. We are not to be excused as people if we ever condone dishonesty,” the supervisor said, reading the selected Roosevelt quote. “That’s advice to heed for our representative government at all levels, whether it’s the local level, state level or national level.”

In civil life, we need decency, honesty. We are not to be excused as people if we ever condone dishonest.”

— Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 speech

Roosevelt was only the second sitting president to visit Huntington, according to Lupinacci, after George Washington, who dined at the former Platt’s Tavern in 1790. No sitting president has visited the town since. A traditional blue-and-gold historic marker was erected in 1932 by the New York State Education Department near the intersection of Park Avenue and Route 25A to mark Washington’s visit.

“Luke, Mr. Levy and I have researched and organized this project in order to commemorate an important historic event that not only happened in our town, but has yet to be acknowledged,” Sage said.

The marker commemorating Roosevelt’s visit, funded by Huntington High School’s student government, bears a different design. The students choose to install a plaque that displays a black-and-white photo of the occasion, the quote from Roosevelt’s speech and a short caption describing the historical significance of the event.

“I congratulate them for doing a wonderful job commemorating a period from 115 years ago,” Town historian Robert Hughes said. “The quote they selected reflects modern-day America as well. This is a timeless historic marker.”

Meet the valedictorians, salutatorians from Cold Spring Harbor, Elwood, Harborfields, Northport and Huntington school districts

Huntington High School held its 157th commencement exercises June 22. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Across the Town of Huntington, hundreds of graduates stepped forward to receive their high school diplomas this week. Among the graduates are those who have excelled academically, achieving consistently high marks to rise top of their class to earn the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian.

Huntington High School Valedictorian Aidan Forbes. Photo from Huntington school district

Huntington High School

Aidan Forbes has been named valedictorian of Huntington High School’s Class of 2018. Sebastian Stamatatos is this year’s salutatorian. The spectacular pair has enjoyed exceptional four-year runs packed with academic and co-curricular success.

“I am extremely proud to be named valedictorian,” Forbes said. “It is the culmination of years of hard work and I couldn’t be happier.”

Forbes and Stamatatos both gave addresses at Huntington’s 157th commencement exercises June 22 in Blue Devil’s athletic stadium.

Huntington High School Salutatorian Sebastian Stamatatos. Photo from Huntington school district

“Aidan is an outstanding student and a very well rounded young man,” Huntington Principal Brenden Cusack said. “His years of hard work have paid off and I am so very happy for him. Sebastian is to be commended as well for this outstanding accomplishment, which apparently has become a family trait.”

Huntington’s top two seniors have captured the respect and admiration of their classmates and teachers. Their transcripts are filled with the most challenging courses the school district offers.

“Aidan and Sebastian have both achieved at the highest of levels academically and have taken complete advantage of all that the district has to offer,” Huntington Superintendent James Polansky said. “As importantly, they recognize the value of service and continue to represent our school community in the finest manner  possible. It will soon be time for them to further share their gifts with the world beyond Huntington. I wish them and their families the heartiest of congratulations and all the best moving forward.”

Northport High School Valedictorian Daniel O’Connor. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district

Northport High School

Daniel O’Connor is Northport High School’s 2018  valedictorian and said by school officials to be a shining example of the district’s mission— “excellence in all areas without exception” — has put hard work and effort into his high school career.

In addition to being involved extracurricular activities and running cross-country, he has been named an AP Scholar with Distinction, a National Merit Commended Scholar, a 2018 Town of Huntington Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and more. He will be attending Northeastern University in pursuit of a computer engineering degree this fall.

Northport High School Salutatorian Nicholas Holfester. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district

Northport High School salutatorian Nicholas Holfester’s passion for learning and internal drive has propelled him toward excellence throughout his high school career, according to school officials.

Even with a rigorous course load Holfester has excelled and received many awards and honors, including being named a National Merit Commended Scholar, a Rensselaer Medal winner and more. He will be attending the University of Notre Dame to study engineering in the fall.

Harborfields High School

Harborfields High School Valedictorian Emma Johnston. Photo from Harborfields school district

Harborfields’s valedictorian Emma Johnston, who will be attending Brandeis University to study neuroscience in the fall, had a successful high school career.

Along with being involved in many extracurricular activities, Johnston has received many academic awards and honors, such as being named a National Merit Finalist and a National AP Scholar.

Harborfields’ Class of 2018 salutatorian Sarah Katz led a well-rounded and successful high school career. Headedto either the University of Californiaor Berkley to dual major in business and engineering.

Harborfields High School Salutatorian Sarah Katz. Photo from Harborfields school district


She has been awarded many awards and honors, such as Rensselaer Medal Award Outstanding Academic Achievement in Study of Mathematics and Science, awards of academic excellence in English, French and art, and more.

Elwood-John H. Glenn High School

Elwood-John H. Glenn’s Valedictorian Kathryn Browne had a rigorous high school career, excelling in both academics and extracurricular activities. She was named a New York State Scholar Athlete all four years and was awarded multiple academic distinctions, including the Bausch & Lomb Honorary
Science Award.

John H. Glenn High School Valedictorian Katherine Browne. Photo from Elwood school district

She participated in multiple clubs where she assumed mentoring and leadership roles, and also enjoyed involvement in both the varsity track and soccer. Browne will be attending Boston College in the fall, where she plans on studying nursing.

Along with being at the top of her class, Elwood-John H. Glenn salutatorian Catherine Ordonoz-Reyes has been pursuing the family tradition of nursing throughout her high school career—and is a certified nursing assistant.

John H. Glenn High School Salutatorian Catherine Reyes-Ordonoz. Photo from Elwood school district

Along with her rigorous dedication to excellence in her studies, Ordonoz-Reyes has been an active member of her school and community. She has received academic distinctions, such as the National Academy for Future Physicians and Medical Scientist Award of Excellence. She will be attending LIU Post on a full scholarship to study nursing.

Editor’s note: Cold Spring Harbor High School does not formally recognize a valedictorian or salutatorian, but rather has a tradition of speeches given by reflection speakers with four to nine individuals selected each year. 

Huntington’s Class of 2018 was sent off in a ceremony full of laughter, smiles and full of hope for the future.

Huntington High School held its 157th annual commencement exercises June 22 on the Blue Devil’s athletic fields as a crowd of nearly 2,000 cheered on the 340 graduates as they accepted their diplomas.

“While we have to give credit to the community that nurtured us, we also have to recognize that in some ways it shielded us from the outside world,”  Valedictorian Aidan Forbes said, who is headed to Cornell University. “It was our shell and if we are to continue to grow, we must shed it. And that process will be painful. We will leave our old friends behind, although hopefully not permanently, and be forced to find new ones. Whether you are going to college or not, we will all be faced with new, more rigorous challenges.”

The seniors were told that they will always have a home in the Huntington community and be welcome at the high school.

An entrance ramp onto the Southern State Parkway which shows signs warning of no commercial vehicles allowed and the overheight vehicle detector system. Photo from Gov. Cuomo's Office

By Sara-Megan Walsh

The parents of two Huntington teens seriously injured when a coach bus slammed into a Southern State Parkway overpass are suing the driver and transportation company.

Frank and Allison Sgrizzi filed the first lawsuit April 11 seeking $5 million for the traumatic injuries suffered by their 17-year-old daughter, Samantha, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Samantha Sgrizzi was one of dozens of Huntington High School students coming home April 9 from a spring break trip to Eastern Europe on a coach bus traveling from John F. Kennedy International Airport headed to Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington via the Belt and Southern State parkways. The coach bus slammed into the Exit 18 Eagle Avenue overpass — which has a 7-foot, 7-inch clearance — sheering off the vehicle’s roof and sending debris raining down on students.

The teenager was impaled by a piece of debris and fractured her right femur in the crash, according to court documents. She was brought to a nearby hospital for immediate surgery.


Lawsuit #1
Filed by: The Sgrizzi family, of Huntington
Injured:  Samantha Sgrizzi, 17
Injuries: fractured femur, impaled
Seeking: $5 million

The lawsuit accuses the tour company; the driver, Troy Gaston of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; and the transportation company, Journey Bus Lines, of being “negligent and careless in failing to take proper and suitable precautions to avoid the crash herein, not limited to, failing to provide, obtain and/or utilize a global position system suitable and certified for use by commercial vehicles.”

Attorney John Giuffré, who is representing the Sgrizzi family, has requested the case be heard by a jury. Giuffré did not respond to requests for an interview on the case.

On April 13, Huntington father Richard Bonitz also filed a lawsuit against the driver and bus company seeking monetary compensation for the injuries suffered by his daughter in Nassau County Supreme Court.

Erin Bonitz, 17, received a traumatic brain injury, facial fractures and several lacerations as result of the bus crash, according to attorney Robert Sullivan of Garden City. Sullivan said she was treated immediately at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens and has since been released home where she is continuing her recovery.

The lawsuit accuses Gaston of ignoring clearly posted signs warning of Eagle Avenue overpass clearance height and “negligently using a noncommercial vehicle GPS device” which directed him to take a route utilizing the Belt and Southern State parkways, according to court documents. New York state law prohibits buses and commercial vehicles from traveling on these limited-access parkways.


Lawsuit #2
Filed by: The Bonitz family, of Huntington
Injured:  Erin Bonitz, 17
Injuries: head injury, facial lacerations
Seeking: trial by jury for monetary damages

They also seek to hold Journey Bus Lines responsible for the accident for its failure to equip the coach bus with a commercial GPS system. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advised transportation companies to install these systems in 2013, as it has the capability to warn truck and bus drivers about the clearance heights of bridges along their planned route.Sullivan said that the Bonitz family will not make a specific demand for compensation.

Journey Bus Lines did not respond to requests for comment on these lawsuits. Gaston could not be reached for comment.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced last December a $4.3 million project to install overheight vehicle detectors at 13 locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties, including Southern State Parkway. These detectors are installed at the top of on-ramps and relay an invisible beam set at the specific height needed to clear the parkway’s bridges. If a vehicle breaks the beam, the device triggers a colored LED message sign to flash a warning to the driver, alerting the truck or bus will not clear the bridge.

Joe Morrissey, spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, confirmed these detectors have been installed at the Eagle Avenue overpass but said they are not yet active due to calibration and testing. Morrissey admitted even if the detectors had been functioning, they would not have prevented the accident. They are not set up to scan for overheight vehicles entering from the Belt Parkway, as the coach bus did.

The National Transportation Safety Board was also notified of the accident, according to police, but it did not meet its response criteria. It will be monitoring the investigation.

The crash remains under open investigation by New York State police. Anyone who may have witnessed the crash is asked to contact the state police at 631-756-3300.

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A horrific crash on the Southern State Parkway injured many Huntington High School students when a coach bus slammed into an overpass April 9. The accident could have been easily avoided, elected officials said, and we couldn’t agree more.

While we cannot control human error, this should be a wake-up call to re-examine our use of technological safety devices.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he called for improved transportation safety measures at the very same place, Exit 18 at the Eagle Avenue bridge, where an accident occurred in 2012. As a result, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advised truck drivers and commercial vehicles that a new GPS system was available to warn of parkways and roadways along their route with low clearances.

While installing this commercial GPS system into commercial vehicles was highly recommended, Schumer admitted it was not mandated by federal law. Elected officials presumed transportation companies would voluntarily shell out money to improve safety. Decisions regarding passenger safety should not be left in the hands of private corporations. Federal, state and county politicians need to reconsider legislation that would require this vital, potentially life-saving equipment on school buses, coach buses, RVs and other tall passenger vehicles.

This accident also warrants taking a closer look at those new technologies in the process of being installed on Long Island’s parkways. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Dec. 5 of last year that $4.3 million in funds would be spent to install overheight vehicle detectors at 13 locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties. His goal was to use state-of-the-art technology to prevent bridge strikes that can be potentially fatal and snarl traffic for hours.

These detectors are installed at the top of on-ramps and relay an invisible beam set at the specific height needed to clear the parkway’s bridges. If a vehicle breaks the beam, the device triggers a colored LED message sign to flash a warning to the driver, alerting the truck or bus will not clear the bridge.

Joe Morrissey, spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, confirmed these detectors have been installed at the Eagle Avenue overpass, but said they are not yet active due to calibration and testing. Morrissey admitted even if the detectors had been functioning, they would not have prevented the accident. They are not set up to scan for overheight vehicles entering from the Belt Parkway, as the coach bus did.

Elected politicians and transportation officials made the assumption that because buses and commercial vehicles are not allowed on the Belt Parkway, none would enter the Southern State Parkway from that ramp.

Cuomo’s plan to install these vehicle detectors needs to be looked over again to better determine where sensors need to be placed. Additional measures, like notification to highway police when the sensor is set off, should also be considered.

These oversights are putting holes in the safety net.

Huntington High School. File Photo

A coach bus transporting dozens of Huntington area students home from a spring break trip smashed into an Southern State Parkway overpass late Sunday night, seriously injuring two 17-year-old girls.

New York State Police said at 9:08 p.m. April 8 officers responded to a one-vehicle crash involving a 2000 Prevost coach bus traveling eastbound on the Southern State Parkway that had crashed into the exit 18 Eagle Avenue overpass in the Town of Hempstead. There were 43 students and chaperones onboard returning from a trip to eastern Europe.

“We were informed shortly [after the crash] that several individuals who were injured in the accident were members of the Huntington High School community,” read a statement from Huntington Superintendent James Polansky posted on the district’s website. “While injuries apparently ranged in severity, preliminary reports indicate that all have been treated and released, or remain under treatment. Our thoughts and prayers remain with all families involved.”

State police identified the driver of the coach bus as Troy Gaston, 43, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who was working for Journey Bus Line. Police said Gaston had used a non-commercial GPS device to determine the best route from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington was via the Belt and Southern State parkways.

Gaston has a valid Pennsylvania commercial vehicle driver’s license. He was cooperative at the scene, according to police, where he was evaluated by a state police drug recognition expert for any sign of alcohol or drug use. The driver voluntarily offered a blood sample which came back with no trace of alcohol use and a drug evaluation is still pending, police said.

“This was an avoidable accident,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) during a press conference.

Schumer said in 2012 he held a press conference at the same overpass where the accident occurred calling for improved safety standards including the use of commercial GPS systems to warn truck and bus drivers about the clearance heights of bridges.

In 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and agency with a primary mission to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries, sent notification to all truckers and transportation companies about these commercial GPS systems.

“This driver should have never been using the Southern State,” Schumer said. “And the GPS equipment was available to tell him.”

While installation of these commercial GPS systems was recommended by the federal agency, it is not mandated by law, according to Schumer. The senator said he would look into legislation to requiree the systems be used and drivers be properly trained to prevent future accidents.

The National Transportation Safety Board was also notified of the accident, according to police, but it did not meet their response criteria. It will be monitoring the ongoing investigation.

The Southern State Parkway was closed until 7 a.m. April 9 to allow state police to attempt to reconstruct the accident and determine its cause. Police said they still need to verify the route the bus traveled using forensic evidence and conducting passenger interviews.

Anyone who may have witnessed the crash is asked to contact the state police at 631-756-3300.

Huntington High School. File Photo

Suffolk County police have confirmed that a dead man was found on the grounds of Huntington High School on Monday afternoon.

Suffolk homicide detectives and crime scene vans were spotted on the periphery of the district’s property off Oakwood Road. Police have not released the identity of the adult male, but confirmed the death appears to be noncriminal at this time.

James Polansky, superintendent of Huntington school district, said no students, staff or school community members are in any way involved in the incident.

“There was never any concern regarding student or staff safety,” Polansky said.

The superintendent said upon hearing of the discovery he headed out to the join police officers at the site for several hours and confirm what facts could be ascertained. The district is fully cooperating with police investigations, Polansky said.

“It’s an unfortunate incident and equally unfortunately it happened on school grounds,” he said. 

This post will be updated as more information becomes available. Last updated 5:50 p.m. March 19. 

 

Huntington High School. File Photo

Huntington High School found itself in the crosshairs of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) latest initiative that takes aims at cracking down on Long Island gang activity, much to the surprise of school officials.

Cuomo announced Sept. 13 his plan for deployment of a new Gang Violence Prevention Unit, which will deploy state troopers to monitor gang activity and recruitment in the alleged top 10 “high-risk” Suffolk County schools. Huntington High School made the list.

The prevention unit will immediately assign 10 state troopers, one to each of the 10 schools in the six targeted districts which includes Brentwood, Central Islip, Huntington, Longwood, South Country Central and Wyandanch. Cuomo said these districts were chosen as they were identified by local law enforcement as having the highest concentration of gang violence and vulnerability to recruitment efforts.

In addition, the prevention unit will coordinate with the Suffolk County Police Department to launch an “Educate the Educators” program, aimed at helping teachers and faculty recognize early warning signs of gang involvement.

“Our number one job in government is to keep all New Yorkers, and especially our children, safe,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By partnering with our schools, we will be better prepared to stop gang activity before it starts and end this heinous cycle of violence. This is just one step in our ongoing efforts to eradicate the threat of MS-13 and ensure that every student remains on a path to a bright future.”

Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky said he was “deeply disappointed” by the manner in which the governor presented the initiative. Polansky made clear to residents it was not a coordinated effort with the district in a letter sent to the community dated Sept. 14.

“Much of our dismay stems from the fact that at no point were we approached,” Polansky said in a statement. “At no point did any state official or otherwise reach out and ask what we need or don’t need. At no point did anyone request a visit or invite a conversation of any sort. At no point have we received even fragments of information about this proposal.”

Upon questioning state officials about Cuomo’s proposed plan, Polansky said the district received a thorough apology and admission that the “ball was dropped.”

The superintendent stated in his Sept. 14 letter that Cuomo had mischaracterized the Huntington school district and that his words, “frankly, offend all members of the school community.”

“In fact, numerous students were the first to point this out first thing in the morning,” Polansky wrote. “Unfortunately, we continue to witness education and politics rarely prove to be a productive combination.”

As of Sept. 19, a state trooper has not been assigned to Huntington High School as part of the prevention unit, according to school spokesman Jim Hoops. The district does have a school resource officer assigned from Suffolk County police since 2004 to monitor issues that arise, which is shared with the South Huntington school district.

File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for allegedly committing a lewd act in public in Huntington Station May 21.

A female student at Huntington High School was walking on Oakwood Road to her parked vehicle on Holdsworth Drive May 18 at approximately 2:05 p.m. when a man in a pickup truck pulled up next to her. The female observed the male driver masturbating in the 2007 red Ford Explorer. The female stated she was going to call the police and the man drove away.

Following an investigation, Second Squad detectives arrested Eric Lombardi in front of his home, located on Arthur Place in Plainview, at approximately 8:25 p.m. on May 21. Lombardi, 44, was charged with public lewdness and was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip May 22.

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